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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stunning result at the Cup of China

I knew that Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron had really improved and that they had awesome programs this season, but I don't think anyone could have expected them to win a Grand Prix against the world champions, not to mention a field that included world medalists and an Olympic medalist. And they're not even twenty yet!

Wow. But well-deserved.

Can Cappellini and Lanotte sort things out or is this a preview of the rest of their season? And why can't the Shibutanis do fun programs, like the fun stuff they do in their free time?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A new season and a lot of questions

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2014-15 season, as the junior Grand Prix kicks off in Courchevel - with senior international competitions to follow in a few weeks' time.

With so many off-season and planned changes, there's a lot that will be new and different this season: many skaters have retired, pretty much all the pairs have split with some already slated to compete with new partners, music with lyrics is now allowed in all disciplines (oh joy, the Phantom of the Opera with lyrics), and several senior international events are now part of the new ISU Challenger series.

I'm still not sure how I'll feel about skating without Savchenko/Szolkowy (Savchenko/Massot are still an unknown), Tomas Verner, Carolina Kostner, Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, Brian Joubert, Yuna Kim, Péchalat/Bourzat and even the Canton teams, but there are some interesting questions that will be answered over the next few months - and in some cases, the next few years:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

That's entertainment: the definitive Chaplin

As noted in the first "that's entertainment" post, neither a skater nor a program need be perfect in order to be entertaining or memorable. In past installments, I focused on skaters who achieved just that even if they didn't end up on the podium. Here, I'd like to make an exception, because Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze's City Lights program is just the thing to deal with off-season boredom.

Friday, May 16, 2014

More or less

Last month, the ISU published communications 1860 and 1861 , detailing (as usual) off-season changes to the scale of values, level features and various other technical matters. More changes may be on the way following the upcoming ISU congress.

Or, in other words, the tinkering continues, but we will not see any real attempt to take a step back and examine the IJS on a broader level, what works and what doesn't - as one might have hoped after an Olympic season. Last year, we had some suggestions about how skating could be improved. While the Carmen moratorium is probably never going to happen, there are some things that skating can still use more or less of:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Four more years?

I've been a skating fan for most of my adult life - sometimes a dedicated fan, at other times a more casual one. With the latest Olympic season having come to an end and many of my favorite skaters ending their careers, I find myself at a fandom crossroads as I contemplate the off-season and the coming Olympic quadrennial.

In many ways, figure skating has changed so much in recent years that the gap from the sport and art that first got my attention is huge - and not necessarily in a good way. It’s not the IJS, at least not in the “oh noes, the math, bring back 6.0!” way that some former fans have expressed. I think maybe it’s that I was spoiled in that so many of my favorites had long careers, and I became attached to them, but not to the newer generation. And here I do blame the IJS, because there’s not enough room for individual expression, and too many skaters seem concerned with the outcome more than the process. Who will spend months developing a concept and storyboarding a program like Pechalat/Bourzat did with The Little Prince? Even Evan Lysacek studied those stupid birds when he did Firebird. Nowadays it seems like a lot of skaters just study the rulebook.

On the other hand, just two weeks into the off-season and there's also been much excitement. Russian partnership splits, swaps, new pairings and other excitement! Aliona Savchenko, representing... France? And soon to come, for better or worse: music with lyrics...

A taste of things to come?

Still, to follow a sport, you really need favorites. It doesn’t matter if it’s football, swimming, gymnastics or a spelling bee, if you can’t root for someone, there’s no involvement, only impersonal admiration. And with all my favorites at the end their careers, I need to find new favorites. In some cases, it's quite easy. But will it be enough? That's a question I can't yet answer.

Work with me here, judges.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Called it in 2012 or "How I out-speedy-ed Speedy!

In all likelihood, most of you have already heard about the most recent open letter from Ottavio Cinquanta and the groundbreaking innovations he puts forward in it, all for the good of the sport, of course. Among other brilliant ideas, he advocates getting rid of the short programme.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A glorious day in Saitama

Savchenko/Szolkowy got their fifth world title with a lovely skate, just as we'd hoped.

Mao broke the world record and was amazing in doing so.

Carolina Kostner was sublime and is within striking distance of Mao.

Akiko was lovely and got a personal best.

I cannot be expected to pay attention to anyone else or to post coherently after all these great skates.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Amodio out of 2014 Worlds

His call? The French Federation's idea? Either way, Florent Amodio joins the list of skaters who will not be competing in Saitama next week. Reports in the French press indicate that Amodio feels that he needs to recover from a difficult and disappointing season before he can compete successfully again. Of course, the last time a French skater had a disappointing Olympic experience, things went much better at Worlds...

But history can't always repeat itself. With Joubert done and no other options, Chafik Bessghier will be the lone French man to compete at Worlds this year. He is also making his Worlds debut, due to the idiotic decision not to use all three spots that France had in 2013. Can he make the top ten and keep two spots for 2015? It's doubtful, but maybe he will rise to the occasion.

As for Amodio, I wish him well, and hope that he will finally find a coach and choreographer who will allow him to realize his potential - because really, this past Olympic quad has mostly been a sad waste of a great talent.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 2014 Worlds wishlist

The Olympics were supposed to be the end of an era, with many top skaters calling it a career after Sochi. As it turns out, however, quite a few of the old timers seem to be having a harder time saying goodbye than originally anticipated, and will be competing in Saitama next week. Throw in all the storylines to follow for the next few years and the up and coming skaters who'll be trying to make their move, and it's shaping up to be an exciting competition. Hopefully Eurosport will allow us to watch at least some of it... and here's what we'd like to see:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ice dance: the future is (almost) now

Skate Canada and the USFSA have announced their entries for 2014 Worlds, and it's now confirmed that both Davis/White and Virtue/Moir will be sitting this one out. This means that for the first time since 2004 - when 6.0 was still in use! - there will be no Canton-based teams on the podium, and we will have our first brand-new World Champions since 2009. I think this is good news for skating fans.

Davis/White and Virtue/Moir have accomplished everything possible in ice dance: Olympic gold medals, world titles, world records, multiple wins in national and international competition... actually, Virtue/Moir are missing one major title - the Grand Prix Final - but going to Worlds wouldn't help them get it. So the stage is now set for some movement in the upper ranks, and the field seems wide open. Very exciting! So what happens now?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Grays Sports Almanac 2000-2050: Savchenko & Joubert (Pairs Team)

An unlikely match?
After Worlds 2014 and the retirement of Robin Szolkowy, Aliona Savchenko was actively
looking for a partner to continue her competitive skating career.

Brian Joubert, although having effectively retired from singles skating, had in the past often hinted at wanting to take up Pairs skating. After secret try outs in the summer of 2014, Aliona and Brian teamed up with the goal to make the podium at the 2018 Olympics.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

≠ The sum of its parts

Skating at its finest produces performances that can pass the Bolero test. These are the skates that make life easy for a judge: shower them with 6s (under the old system) or 10s and 3s (these days) and be glad that you were there for something special. Skating, when it's simply very good, produces highly accomplished and sometimes moving performances that also merit very high marks. The problem begins when a competition produces more than one great performance - or conversely, when it produces none. How does one compare skaters and performances whose strengths and weaknesses vary?

Making life easy for all involved

Monday, February 17, 2014

Olympic ladies event: dream podium candidates

I cannot be expected to deal with the ice dance results. I don't care if these were Bolero Test level performances, I wanted a different podium and I am not pleased. So let's move on to a potentially happier subject: the ladies! The nice things about the ladies are 1. they are not in a technical race like the men, so the events tend to be less messy 2. this means that they also have the opportunity to develop an individual style 3. many of the top ladies are veteran competitors, which I always approve 4. I like so many of them that there is bound to be something to be happy about...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A memory of better times

The men's free skate yesterday was so underwhelming that I feel the need for a healthy dose of great and/or fun programs to make up for it. In the early days of SFT, I put together a roundup of such programs, but today I'll focus only on men's skating, since that is where there is a lot to make up for.

By popular demand: The LETDOWN-O-METER

When selecting pictures for the Olympic LETDOWN-O-Meter (the star indicating my current Olympic satisfaction), I didn't imagine, I'd ever have to change those polar opposites, which were so prototypical, they were almost absolute incarnations of what they were meant to represent. A week or so later, it seems, all I needed was some kind of perspective. Perspective very difficult to compute but still...

Sorry Dennis, you had a good
 free skate, but you are part of the podium.

Friday, February 14, 2014


We have a new Olympic champion and the Curse of the Canadians lives on. Take your bow, Yuzuru Hanyu - and congratulations for being the first Japanese man to win Olympic gold. Now please, four more years so that you can actually earn your gold with two great skates?

Alexei Yagudin, your legacy remains safe. Still the most inspiring 1-2 program punch to win Olympic gold by any man - in my lifetime, at least.

Sochi 2014 - Men Singles Short Program

Much to my surprise, especially after Plushy's WD, the Men's short turned out to be quite enjoyable. It had drama, melodrama, good performances, surprisingly good performances, good judging, bad judging. Overall, it could have been much worse. Let's look at 5 short programmes, which are, in my opinion, among the most interesting and/or best performances of today.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old age should burn and rave... - Evgeni withdraws from the Singles event

No, no, no, no, no! It wasn't supposed to end like this. It simply wasn't. Alas, Evgeni has just withdrawn, shortly before his SP, right after the warm-up had ended.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sochi Tuesday - SFT struggling for a good story

Originally, this post was intended to continue our daily in-depth coverage of figure skating at the Sochi Olympics. However, as it turns out, nothing even remotely remarkable or news-worthy has happened in that regard, today.

In fact, leading scientists agree that the most surprising thing that happened on Sochi-Ice today, was the placing of this center guard stone, quite possibly to prevent the occurrence of a future take out. It was said that delivery and sweeping were of the most proficient kind and a true testament to the team's abilities.

Spot on!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Post Team Event Thoughts

The team event is over, the medals have just been awarded. What remains are very mixed feelings, with a sizebable quantum of skating fatigue starting to kick in.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Team Free - Plushenko wins the Men

Jason Brown, one of the few enjoyable things about the Men's.
This post gives me the opportunity to say something, I have been contemplating to say for quite some time:

I know, I have complained a couple of times in the past, but how the times have changed almost made me feel bad about it, so let me state officially: Canada is not the worst offender, when it comes to overscoring, not by far, it might still be in the top three, but it has found its equal in Japan and its superior in Russia, the latter showing at the last Cup of Russia in the Pairs how real inflation has to look.

Sochi Olympics: Even more Team Event SP

Advantage Davis and White. Experts say this is a stunning position.
Time is decidedly flying. Straight from the live stream to the rink, straight from the rink to SFT headquarters. Eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. After just those two days of Olympic skating, I feel the most inspired in a long time, and I was thusly compelled to indulge in both active and passive skating. As this portion of the event is practically old news by the time I'll have finished this post, I won't dwell too long on what transpired today.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Savchenko & Szolkowy change Short Program

The Pink Panther sneaks back onto the ice. I loved it!
German news report that Aljona and Robin are abandoning their When Winter Comes routine. The new short program will feature the music of The Pink Panther which they had previously used for their free program, during the 2010/11 season. The collaboration with André Rieu continues to remain somewhat problematic as his rendition of You'll never walk alone didn't make it onto Olympic Ice either. In 2010, after a couple of disappointing performances at the start of the season, S/S switched to a new program to Out of Africa.

Good luck to S/S. They will hopefully benefit from that move.

*ETA: Ingo Steuer is quoted hoping that the new short can increase their PCS by about 2 points.

Figure Skating Flagbearers - trivial trivia and a gallery

Javier Fernández of Spain.
Over the years, a lot more or less prominent figure skaters have been selected to carry their countries' flag during the parade of nations. Most people probably still remember Brian Orser being a flagbearer in 1988, or have at least seen pictures of it. Click "read more" to learn some exiting facts on figure skating and flag bearing. You won't regret it, and with all the knowledge you'll be sure to impress at the next tupperware party. (Pictures of this years' flagbearers appear in order of the parade of nations.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

For the first time ever...

The team event medals will likely be won by skating's usual powerhouses, and most of the individual ones as well. But one of the nicer things at the Olympics is seeing qualifiers from countries not normally associated with figure skating greatness. This time, a number of skaters became either the first the qualify an Olympic spot for their country, or the first to do so in a specific discipline. Maybe one day we'll see their countries participating in the team event, too? Until then...

Sochi Olympics: More Team Event SP

A puzzled Tigerman marveling at the scores.

If your Olympic day didn't start off with the Figure Skating Team event, it probably began with Mogul skiing. In case you were wondering, the name apparently derives from the Austrian "mugel" for "small hill". No, I didn't know that either. On to the team event, which offered lots of pleasing results, some good performances, and very few surprises.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympics, Day -1

The opening ceremony may not have taken place yet, but the first day of Olympic competition is in the books and went more or less as expected:

GB's Matthew Parr became the first skater to compete and the first one to be done in Sochi. It is hopefully a sign of things to come that Parr skated quite well and scored a new PB by some way.

On to the actual contenders in the men's event: Yuzuru Hanyu was Yuzuru Hanyu (the score was surprisingly muted for an Olympics - no 100s yet), Evgeni Plushenko and his bionic body landed everything, Patrick Chan was off-form, Jeremy Abbott succumbed to nerves and Florent Amodio wore a low cut top.

Over in the pairs, Volosozhar and Trankov were predictably good and received a predictable massive score - Team Russia have to be overwhelming favorites for the gold at this point. Duhamel and Radford looked great, with the exception of Meagan's unfortunate hair. Peng and Zhang did what Chinese pairs do: kick ass. The Italians were really good and the French, alas, were not.

Team spirit in the Kiss and Cry can't rival that of the World Team Trophy (not enough props), but Russian, Japan, Canada and Italy certainly gave it a good shot. I especially enjoyed the cuteness of Team Japan and the special appearance of the Russian legends (not you, N. Morozov) following Volosozhar and Trankov's SP. If only Italy had thought to do the same and bring in Barbara Fusar-Poli for some entertainment!

We all know that actual videos won't last three seconds on Youtube.

So, who will make it to the final? Who will win medals? We'll all be wiser on Saturday...

Happy Olympics, everyone!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Introducing: The LETDOWN-O-METER

A lot of things determine how enjoyable and satisfying the Olympics are. Performances and results being the major factors here. However, it's not all about your own favourites winning, or performing and placing well, it's also about not being totally at odds with all the overall results no matter what happens. And then there are those worst case scenarios that just can't ever be undone...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Evgeni goes to Sochi: Vincerò!

It is confirmed: Evgeni will be skating in Sochi. Truth be told, I was a little nervous. I even worked myself up over it, the day before yesterday, and wrote a "Evgeni didn't make it" post. I'm keeping that on hold, btw., just in case...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Championship material

None of these skaters won gold at the 2014 European Championships (though one can argue about some of the placements) and some didn't have their strongest skates. But all delivered performances worthy of champions.

Kostner on her way to her ninth Europeans medal

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Europeans: Men's Long Programme

Ladies and Gentlemen, your European Champion. Allowed to go to Sochi!
An utterly satisfying podium, a few promising skates, a number of bomby ones, empty programmes, and a repeat European Champion. What more could you possibly hope for?

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014 Europeans: The Gentlemen's Short Programme

2nd Day of the European Championships. Jump right in with me for some random thoughts (maybe even SP related) on skaters who are in the Top Ten after the Short Programme. If I do not comment on a skater, it's not reflective of their performance but rather a sign of my laziness.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Are minimum scores really a good idea?

Ireland's Clara Peters was unsuccessful in her final bid to meet the minimum technical score for the European Championships. She is not the only skater who will have to sit out a major event because of this, but her case is especially unfortunate as she missed the SP standard by a mere 0.03 points. That hurts. Peters has been improving steadily though not rapidly, and I would have liked to see her get a chance to compete in Budapest.